Any cricket team from the Caribbean arouses a great deal of interest and cricket fans are assured of entertainment at the highest level whenever they are around. Some of the great West Indies sides that have visited our shores have left an indelible mark on the game in our country.
Who can forget the classic duel between Brian Lara and Muthiah Muralitharan for supremacy in the 2001 series and the power batting of Chris Gayle who scored a monumental triple Test century at Galle in 2010.
Apart from the 2001 and 2005 series the inaugural series in 1994 and the one in 2010 tours were hit badly by poor weather.
West Indies’ maiden Test venture to Sri Lanka saw Sir Richie Richardson who was recently appointed to the ICC elite match referees’ panel, leading the side.
West Indies’ next tour to Sri Lanka was not until another seven years when Carl Hooper’s team played three Tests. This series brought out the classical duel between one of the best left-handed batsman in the game Brian Lara against Test cricket’s most prolific wicket-taker Muthiah Muralitharan. It was a fascinating contest that highlighted the series with Lara coming out on top scoring 688 runs in the three Tests at an average of 114.66 inclusive of three centuries and one fifty. But even Lara’s outstanding batting talents could not inspire his side to win as Sri Lanka made a clean 3-0 sweep with Muralitharan 24 wickets (avg. 22.33) and Chaminda Vaas 26 wickets (avg. 15.42) doing the major part of the damage to the rest of the West Indies batting.
The 2005 series was turned into a totally lopsided contest when a player dispute with the West Indies Cricket Board resulted in West Indies fielding a virtual second string side made up largely of players from the West Indies ‘A’ side which was touring Sri Lanka at the time. Needless to say Sri Lanka won both Tests quite comfortably to take the series 2-0.
West Indies’ last tour to Sri Lanka in 2010 saw all three Tests ending in draws with bad weather making the most of it. The series commenced on a promising note for West Indies with Chris Gayle scoring a career best 333 at Galle and West Indies having the upper hand in the contest forcing Sri Lanka to follow-on.
The team that Jason Holder is bringing to Sri Lanka on October 1 promises to provide a keen contest as both nations are in a team rebuilding process. Missing from the West Indies line up are exciting stars like Chris Gayle and Dwayne Bravo who have decided to put limited over cricket especially the T20 version ahead of their Test careers. The West Indies selection committee under the chairmanship of former captain Clive Lloyd have taken a tough stance on those not committed to playing Test cricket and decided overlook them for future engagements replacing them with some exciting talent which the Lankan fans are due to witness in the next six weeks.
How inexperienced Holder’s side is can be gauged by the fact that former captain Denesh Ramdin with 69 Tests is the senior most player with Marlon Samuels (59 Tests) a close second. Holder who is only 22 and making his debut as Test captain during the Sri Lanka series will bank heavily on the playing experience in Sri Lankan conditions of Ramdin whom he replaced as captain, Samuels, Darren Bravo and Kemar Roach, who have toured before and on the recent experience of Kraigg Brathwaite who has been named vice-captain to Holder, Carlos Brathwaite (captain of West Indies ‘A’), Devendra Bishoo, Jermaine Blackwood and Shannon Gabriel all of whom toured Sri Lanka with the West Indies ‘A’ side last November.
Holder has a demanding task ahead of him of trying to achieve what his previous predecessors have failed – win a Test match on Sri Lankan soil. West Indies have gone through nine Tests without any success losing five and drawing four.